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A randomised controlled trial of long NY-ESO-1 peptide-pulsed autologous dendritic cells with or without alpha-galactosylceramide in high-risk melanoma

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2023 Mar 7. doi: 10.1007/s00262-023-03400-y. Online ahead of print.


AIM: We have previously reported that polyfunctional T cell responses can be induced to the cancer testis antigen NY-ESO-1 in melanoma patients injected with mature autologous monocyte-derived dendritic cells (DCs) loaded with long NY-ESO-1-derived peptides together with α-galactosylceramide (α-GalCer), an agonist for type 1 Natural Killer T (NKT) cells.

OBJECTIVE: To assess whether inclusion of α-GalCer in autologous NY-ESO-1 long peptide-pulsed DC vaccines (DCV + α-GalCer) improves T cell responses when compared to peptide-pulsed DC vaccines without α-GalCer (DCV).

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Single-centre blinded randomised controlled trial in patients ≥ 18 years old with histologically confirmed, fully resected stage II-IV malignant cutaneous melanoma, conducted between July 2015 and June 2018 at the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre of the Capital and Coast District Health Board.

INTERVENTIONS: Stage I. Patients were randomised to two cycles of DCV or DCV + α-GalCer (intravenous dose of 10 × 106 cells, interval of 28 days). Stage II. Patients assigned to DCV + α-GalCer were randomised to two further cycles of DCV + α-GalCer or observation, while patients initially assigned to DCV crossed over to two cycles of DCV + α-GalCer.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Primary: Area under the curve (AUC) of mean NY-ESO-1-specific T cell count detected by ex vivo IFN-γ ELISpot in pre- and post-treatment blood samples, compared between treatment arms at Stage I. Secondary: Proportion of responders in each arm at Stage I; NKT cell count in each arm at Stage I; serum cytokine levels at Stage I; adverse events Stage I; T cell count for DCV + α-GalCer versus observation at Stage II, T cell count before versus after cross-over.

RESULTS: Thirty-eight patients gave written informed consent; 5 were excluded before randomisation due to progressive disease or incomplete leukapheresis, 17 were assigned to DCV, and 16 to DCV + α-GalCer. The vaccines were well tolerated and associated with increases in mean total T cell count, predominantly CD4+ T cells, but the difference between the treatment arms was not statistically significant (difference – 6.85, 95% confidence interval, – 21.65 to 7.92; P = 0.36). No significant improvements in T cell response were associated with DCV + α-GalCer with increased dosing, or in the cross-over. However, the NKT cell response to α-GalCer-loaded vaccines was limited compared to previous studies, with mean circulating NKT cell levels not significantly increased in the DCV + α-GalCer arm and no significant differences in cytokine response between the treatment arms.

CONCLUSIONS: A high population coverage of NY-ESO-1-specific T cell responses was achieved with a good safety profile, but we failed to demonstrate that loading with α-GalCer provided an additional advantage to the T cell response with this cellular vaccine design.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: ACTRN12612001101875. Funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

PMID:36881133 | DOI:10.1007/s00262-023-03400-y

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